More than 70 teachers had an opportunity to experience what it feels like to float in space as they participated in the Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston last week.
The teachers flew aboard an aircraft that flies parabolic flight paths, which create brief periods of weightlessness. It is a key component of NASA's astronaut training protocol. The teachers were selected for the flights through NASA's Teaching from Space and Explorer School Programs.
NASA Associate Administrator for Education and two-time space shuttle astronaut Leland Melvin also participated in some of the flights and shared first-hand with the participants his experiences in astronaut training.
"The enthusiasm among our teachers participating in the reduced gravity flights is contagious," Melvin said. "I know it will add a new dimension to their teaching as they engage their students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics studies."
Also participating in the flights was Mark Riccobono, executive director of the National Federation of the Blind's Jernigan Institute. Riccobono is blind. NASA has worked with the National Federation of the Blind in a variety of capacities during the past 10 years to share the excitement and inspiration of the agency's missions and programs with those who are visually impaired.
"NASA education always is looking for ways to make our offerings available to the widest audience possible," Melvin said. "Mark Riccobono's flight represents a new chapter in our commitment to sharing the excitement of NASA's mission with the blind community."
The Teaching from Space Program offers educational opportunities that use the unique assets of NASA's human spaceflight mission to engage the education community and create space-related learning opportunities. Teachers used the event to work with their students to propose, design and build the experiments they took on the flights.
Fourteen teams comprising 40 teachers from NASA Explorer Schools also participated as part of the 2011 School Recognition Award for their contributions to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. They conducted microgravity experiments provided by NASA.
The Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program continues NASA's investment in U.S. education by helping attract and retain students in STEM disciplines critical to future space exploration.
To learn more about NASA's education activities, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/education
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